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December 15, 2023

Memorable Moments of 2023


What a year of unforgettable memories! From our No Safety Net 3.0 Festival to our Arts & Resistance theme semester events at U-M, we thank you for joining us in 2023. Enjoy a look back at some of our favorite moments of the year:

The Plastic Bag Store Opens No Safety Net 3.0

Plastic Bag Store Family Day

Family Day “shoppers” exploring The Plastic Bag Store

Robin Frohardt’s performance installation of The Plastic Bag Store offered more than 40 public performances throughtout UMS’s No Safety Net 3.0 Festival. In total, more than 5,000 audience members of all ages participated in No Safety Net, which featured five unique performances centered around critical topics in today’s modern world.

See more from No Safety Net 3.0


Spotlighting the Frieze Memorial Organ

Scott Hanoian with the Brno Philharmonic and the UMS Choral Union

Scott Hanoian with the Brno Philharmonic and the UMS Choral Union

We’re still talking about Brno Philharmonic’s epic UMS debut, which featured Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass with the UMS Choral Union, as well as a work by U-M emeritus professor and Pulitzer Prize winner William Bolcom. The program also showed off Hill Auditorium’s Frieze Memorial Organ, played by Christian Schmitt, who also filmed and recorded a special UMS Live Session digital performance.

Christian Schmitt, organ

Christian Schmitt recording on Hill Auditorium’s Frieze Memorial Organ


A New Take on Swan Lake

Ballet Preljocaj: Swan Lake

Ballet Preljocaj’s Swan Lake

UMS and Detroit Opera co-presented Ballet Preljocaj’s modern take on Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet in three performances at the Detroit Opera House. In this adaptation, blending classical and new, the evil sorcerer von Rothbart was portrayed as an industrialist who wanted to exploit fossil fuels against a backdrop of unbridled capitalism, while Siegfried and Odette were two eco-conscious heroes who tried to thwart his plans.


A Stepped-Up School Day Performance

Step Afrika! performing at a sold-out School Day Performance in Hill Auditorium

Step Afrika! performing at a sold-out School Day Performance in Hill Auditorium

UMS welcomed 3,500+ young audience members in a sold-out School Day Performance performance by Step Afrika! in Hill Auditorium. The energy of the hall was literally through the roof!


Chineke’s Debut

Violinist Elena Urioste performing with the Chineke! Orchestra

Violinist Elena Urioste performing with the Chineke! Orchestra

In March, UK-based Chineke! Orchestra made its much-anticipated UMS debut on the ensemble’s first-ever North American tour. The ensemble was founded in 2015 as Europe’s first majority Black and ethnically diverse orchestra. Soloist Elena Urioste stunned the audience with Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s violin concerto, and maestro Andrew Grams led Florence Price’s first symphony.


First Ypsilanti Freighthouse Residency

Breakdancing Workshop at the Freighthouse

Families and K-12 students participated in interactive breakdancing and art-making workshops led by Maurice Archer and Curtis Wallace.

In April 2023, UMS piloted a week of arts programming at the Ypsilanti Freighthouse, in advance of new four-week residencies that will take place at the historic Depot Town venue each Fall and Spring. The pilot week included nine unique programs — all free or Pay What You Wish — and brought together multi-generational audiences from Ypsilanti and beyond.

See more from UMS’s April 2023 Residency at the Ypsi Freighthouse


Pride Digital Presentation

Wild Up

Music collective Wild Up recording for their UMS Live Session

UMS presented the debut of Wild Up, a Los Angeles-based musical collective whose most recent work has been to celebrate the legacy of Julius Eastman — one of the most overlooked and underappreciated composers of the 20th century, and a trailblazer as a young, gay, and Black artist who challenged the norms and conventions of his time.

After Wild Up’s performance of Julius Eastman’s Femenine in Rackham Auditorium, we filmed LA-based music collective Wild Up in two other works by Eastman for a UMS Live Session digital presentation, which was offered for Pride month in June.

Read more about Julius Eastman and his minimalist masterpiece, Femenine.


A Powerhouse Opening Week

Standing ovation for Shakti in Hill Auditorium

Standing ovation for Shakti in Hill Auditorium

The 23/24 UMS performance season opened with a powerhouse week of performances, including superband Snarky Puppy and the 50th-anniversary world tour with the legendary ensemble Shakti — a tour that also featured special guest Béla Fleck as its opening act.


Meaningful Sonic Contributions

Marcus Elliot’s Sonic Contributions

Marcus Elliot’s Sonic Contributions at the Ypsilanti Freighthouse

Detroit-based saxophonist Marcus Elliot led a seven-piece band of musicians and artists as part of UMS’s Fall residency at the Ypsilanti Freighthouse, in Sonic Contributions — a special collaboration with the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County that celebrated the history of Ypsilanti as a refuge for Black Americans dating back to the 1830s. The work was also filmed and will be released for streaming in February 2024. Sign up for our digital presentations newsletter for a reminder when it becomes available.

See more from UMS’s Fall 2023 residency at the Ypsi Freighthouse


Renée and Inon

Inon Barnatan and Renée Fleming

Inon Barnatan and Renée Fleming

In addition to the world premiere of their Voice of Nature recital program, soprano superstar Renée Fleming and pianist Inon Barntan immersed themselves on the U-M campus.

Fleming led a Music and Mind panel discussion that explored the relationships between the arts and neuroscience, presented in partnership with Michigan Medicine.

Inon Barnatan’s week-long residency included a week-long series of performances and activities at the University of Michigan, with master classes at the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance plus a preview solo recital of his just-released new album, Rachmaninoff Reflections.


Arts & Resistance at U-M

DakhaBrakha in Hill Auditorium

Ukrainian “ethno-chaos” group DakhaBrakha performing in Hill Auditorium

This fall, UMS presented performances and many campus engagement events surrounding the University of Michigan’s Arts & Resistance semester theme. Performances included the return of Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha, Ireland’s Druid Theater with SeanO’Casey’s Dublin Trilogy (including a 7-hour long immersion day!), and Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World by British-Iranian theater artist Javaad Alipoor.

Neda Ulaby, Javaad Alipoor, and King Raam in Penny Stamps lecture

NPR’s Neda Ulaby, theater maker Javaad Alipoor, and musician King Raam in a Penny Stamps lecture

See more from UMS’s campus-wide engagements in November


Minería’s Extraordinary Debut

Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería’s UMS debut

Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería’s UMS debut

The energy and passion of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería sent the Hill Auditorium audience into rapturous applause following the ensemble’s debut UMS performance in October. Mexico’s top orchestra was led by maestro Carlos Miguel Prieto and featured pianist Gabriela Montero, who performed her own Piano Concerto No. 1, as well as an encore improvisation of a song suggested on the spot by an audience member.


Holidays in Hawai’i

Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro with students after his School Day Performance

Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro with students after his School Day Performance

Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro has been a favorite artist for Ann Arbor families since his UMS debut 10 years ago! This December he returned for an-in person and livestreamed School Day Performance, followed by a family-friendly holiday-themed concert in Hill Auditorium. His music and messages of kindness always warm up Hill Auditorium, no matter the time of year!